Let’s start with a simple question. What exactly is an office? Is it an enclosure for individual privacy or is an office a physical space where multi-disciplinary teams gather to work towards a common vision? The latter represents a place where many of us go to collaborate on projects that feed on our creative energy. But does that place align with the way we really work? Offices typically provide for process and structure – two nouns that are not always synonymous with creativity and innovation.
Today’s office spaces are an amalgamation of cubicles, private offices, conference rooms and common areas. In the end, they become enclaves of space within space, places to work, meet, talk and perform tasks associated with a project goal. Although the purpose of an office is to bring people together, most offices are disjointed. However, the right environment can celebrate both independent thinking and collaborative efforts serving the needs of both creative extroverts and introverts.
For most creative agencies, collaboration is an important driver of creativity and innovation linked to performance and productivity. But collaborating shouldn’t feel like an organized play date.
In today’s creative economy, office space needs to be an extension of not just how we work but who we are. Office environments need to allow for deep levels of independent and quiet thinking, inspire creative collaboration between people and projects, and foster natural tendencies for teamwork and feedback. “Culturalizing” the way people work is important for growing teams that will grow the business.
For example, cloud-based communication and portable computing allows teams to be more mobile while staying connected to each other and their projects. Why not embrace and proliferate the way people naturally work? Workspace then becomes a giant flexible medium to express ideas, a forum for getting and giving feedback, and a way to break down silos and create transparency without giving up privacy.
Designing a workspace around your organizational culture is not easy. It requires knowledge about people, technology, communication flow, human interaction and physical and mental health. It requires insight to understand what’s important to today’s workforce and design thinking to develop a vision that addresses those needs. A healthy environment also needs to encourage mobility – more standing, more walking and less sitting, which increases blood flow, energy and productivity.
Over the next decade, as work-home life continues to blend and more Millennials enter the workforce, it will be an expectation that office space seamlessly blends with employee lifestyles. To be on the forefront of creative innovation, agency leaders need to build environments and culture that best foster productivity of individual employees and team collaboration. Most agencies invest a lot in their talent and should not hesitate to make the capitol investment to build a physical environment that supports their culture.
The following principles should be used as guidelines to help create an environment that encourages creative innovation:
1. Encourage Flexibility
A mix of fixed and fluid architectural elements like semi-permanent walls and movable partitions that allow for flexibility. Creating “I” space, “We” space, and “Group” space is important to encourage behaviors indicative to every individual personality and work style. Private space, including nap rooms where employees can rest and recharge, are imperative.
2. Allow for Mobility
It’s important to take advantage of the technology that allows for individuals and teams to work wherever and however they want. The goal is to remove any hurdles and allow people to do their best work where and when they are the most comfortable to engage.
3. Create Spatial Equity
Stimulating and engaging spaces can jump-start and sustain creative thinking, ensuring that individuals and teams have the space, equipment and support they need to excel. Equal access to important elements like natural light, outside views and space to talk (or think) privately should be a guiding principle. Comfortable settings that stimulate creativity and community keep people engaged and happy.
4. Enable Connectivity
It’s important for our teams, clients and partners to stay connected. Texting, email, cell phones and online community interaction should be encouraged, not policed. A connected community and network of family, friends, clients, partners and team members is critical to keeping an organized work-life balance.
Culture is everything. Your identity should be synonymous with culture while providing reassuring context and meaning to the work people do every day. Your culture will thrive when the workspace is designed to accommodate the personal and professional needs of every staff member in a healthy, happy and productive environment.
About The Author
Gary is the Co-Founder and President of Kaleidoscope, a leading integrated design agency headquartered in Chicago. In his role as Chief Engagement Officer, Gary directs Kaleidoscope’s vision, strategy, and business logic. He closely partners with clients to develop optimum business opportunities by aligning brand and design strategy and output with their specific business goals.